Surprising Ways You Are Aging Your Skin

Caring for your skin is important at all stages of your life, but as you grow into adulthood it can feel like you're always searching for any way to keep your skin as youthful and wrinkle-free as possible. Despite many industries seeing a decline in sales in recent years, the beauty industry seems to be booming, thanks in part to the never-ending search for the fountain of youth (or at least a product that can help visibly reduce signs of aging). Data from Euromonitor International proves that we are obsessed with looking younger, revealing "the anti-aging market grew from $3.9 billion in 2016 to $4.9 billion in 2021 in the United States alone" (via VOX).


Whether you're a fan of injectables, serums, creams, or other anti-aging methods to keep your skin plumped and wrinkle-free, there's always a limit to just how effective these products are. And, while Americans are spending billions of dollars each year on these products and procedures to look younger, their diets, lifestyle, and even shopping habits can be aging their skin without them even realizing it. Most of us know that wearing sunscreen regularly and drinking lots of water is important for healthy skin, but those aren't the only habits that can help you maintain that youthful glow. Here are some surprising ways you are aging your skin that you may not have considered.

Drinking from a straw

It looks like the environment isn't the only reason you may want to ditch straws! If you only sip from a straw on the odd occasion you probably don't have to worry about lip wrinkles, but if you drink from straws regularly, you may be aging your skin without even realizing it. According to Cutis Medical Laser Clinics, drinking from a straw causes you to repeatedly purse your lips, causing the muscles in your lips to contract. Over time this can break down the collagen and lead to creases, fine lines, and even deeper wrinkles in the future.


This may not be a big deal if you only use straws sparingly, but if you prefer to sip your daily iced coffee or soda through a straw, this could have lasting effects. And believe it or not, drinking from a water bottle can also have the same effect. The repetitive motion of pursing your lips to drink out of the bottle opening can contribute to fine lines and wrinkles, as well as thinning lips. Fortunately, you don't have to ditch the straws or water bottles for good, just limit how often you use them. Doctors suggest drinking from a cup, glass, or mug regularly, saving the straws and water bottles for occasional use.

Ignoring your hands and neck

We've all heard that the hands and neck can give away your true age, and that's mostly because people tend to ignore those areas when it comes to skincare. We tend to concentrate solely on our face when applying anti-aging creams and lotions as well as preventative products like sunscreen, but a big mistake many people make is ignoring their hands and neck. According to Vogue, the neck and chest can be where you first notice sagging and pigmentation, which are signs of environmental damage. "People forget to even apply sunblock on these areas, even though they are exposed a lot," Dr. Kiran Lohia, dermatologist and founder of Lumiere Dermatology, told the outlet. The backs of the hands are susceptible to environmental factors and can show age spots, wrinkles, and pigmentation over time, so proper care is necessary to avoid premature aging.


Celebrity facialist Su-Man Hsu explained to beautytap why caring for the neck is so important, and why it can age you if you don't. "The neck produces only one-third of sebaceous oil and sweat glands compared to the face," she said. "It also stores very little collagen, so it very easily can become rough, dry, and sagging, leading to fine lines and wrinkles."

Rubbing your eyes

Do you suffer from pesky allergies or a skin condition like eczema that causes your eyes to itch and swell? Do you find yourself rubbing your eyes often, looking for any relief from that irritation? If so, you may be aging your skin without realizing it. Dermatologist Dr. Tanya Nino explained to Everyday Health how constantly rubbing your eyes can affect that delicate skin. "Constantly rubbing your eyes can affect the lines around your eyes," she said, while dermatologist Dr. Jeanine B. Downie added how it can also affect the appearance of the skin around your eyes. "Pulling, tugging, and rubbing on delicate skin around the eyes can cause darkness," she added.


The key to stopping eye rubbing is to figure out what's causing it in the first place. Getting a proper diagnosis can help you treat the issue before your eye rubbing causes any long-term damage. Even if it's just seasonal allergies, seeing a doctor and taking the proper medication can help alleviate the cause of the irritation. Itchy eyes can be painful and bothersome, so not only can this help improve the appearance of your skin but it can make you much more comfortable.

Not removing your makeup before bed

This is something most of us are guilty of at one time or another. We all know that we should be washing our face before going to bed, but we also know that sometimes we just can't be bothered. Whether we're too tired or we don't think there's any makeup to wash off, the reality is that not removing your makeup and properly cleansing your skin before you go to sleep can age your skin without you even realizing it. "Dirt and makeup trapped against your skin cause environmentally-induced oxidative damage," celebrity dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu explained to Good Housekeeping. "This leads to a breakdown of the skin barrier and prematurely ages your face."


To prove this point, in an experiment conducted for the Daily Mail, one woman went a full month without washing her makeup off before bed. At the end of her experiment, professionals deemed her skin had aged almost 10 years from what she looked like when she started. Dermatologist Dr. Stefanie Williams commented on the experiment saying, "sleeping in makeup, has an occlusive effect. This means any irritants are locked in, exacerbating any allergic reactions, and moisturizers are locked out." So, no matter how tired you are, cleansing your face before bed won't just make you feel better, it can help keep your skin looking youthful looking and vibrant, too.

Using too many products

Are you a skincare junkie? Do you have a drawer full of different skincare products at home? Are your shelves teeming with all the latest serums, creams, and lotions, yet you're still struggling with dry, irritated, or dull skin? Believe it or not, using too many products at one time may be the culprit. Even though you may be using great products, less can definitely be more when it comes to your skincare regimen. "Too much of a good thing — like over-exfoliating your skin with multiple acids and/or mechanical beads — can result in redness, irritation, dryness, and worsened breakouts," dermatologist and skincare expert Dr. Jeanette Graf told Insider. "With so many skin-care choices available, patients often overuse or combine products — which can worsen their skin."


The combination of products you're using on your skin can also drastically affect your appearance. Mixing different serums and creams can take a toll on your skin, regardless of whether you're using top-of-the-line brands or your local drugstore product. Sometimes, using fewer products that are targeted to your specific skin concerns is all you need for a luxurious, glowing complexion. It can be tempting to buy the newest lotion, serum, or cleanser, but make sure you're not overdoing it or using products that don't work well together to get optimal results. 

Not getting enough sleep

We know that getting a full eight hours of sleep every night isn't always realistic, but if you need another reason to prioritize your sleep and hit the hay early tonight, research proves that not getting enough sleep can age your skin and cause you to look older. According to Walk-In Dermatology, not getting enough sleep can not only make you cranky but actually accelerates the aging process. "During deep sleep, growth hormones help damaged skin cells repair. When you don't get enough sleep, the daily breakdown in your skin doesn't get a chance to repair overnight." That means that if you consistently don't get enough sleep, your skin won't be able to repair itself. Eventually, this will result in your skin looking older.


They also note that lack of sleep also contributes to stress in the body, which affects your skin's collagen production. This directly affects your skin's firmness and your skin's smoothness. They suggest trying to develop a bedtime routine that works for your lifestyle but also allows you to get adequate sleep every night. There will always be the occasional situation where your sleep may be disrupted, or your routine may have to change, but trying to maintain adequate sleep regularly can really help keep your skin looking youthful.

Not giving new products enough time to work

If you've ever excitedly purchased a new skincare product only to be left disappointed because your results weren't what you were expecting, it may not have been the product that was the issue. It may be that you didn't give it enough time to do what it was supposed to do. Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologic surgeon at Manhattan Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, explained to The Healthy that skin care products — especially those marketed as anti-aging products — need adequate time to work before you'll see any results. "All skin-care products take four to eight weeks to really induce measurable skin changes," she explains. If you're still not convinced your new skincare is working, try taking a makeup-free selfie in natural light, once a week for eight weeks to track your progress. That way you can see the subtle changes that are happening.


Dr. Carolyn Jacob, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, agrees. She told CBS News, "one skin cycle takes 30 days [for new cells to reach the top layer of skin], so in order to see a real difference in texture, tone, and clarity, you need to use it for more than a month," adding that anti-aging products can take even longer to be effective. She stated that it can take up to four months for your skin to regenerate collagen and elastin, so patience really is key when trying a new product.

Eating too many processed meats

Drinking plenty of water is important for maintaining healthy-looking skin, but your diet also plays a huge role in the health of your skin and maintaining that youthful glow. Eating too many processed meats like deli meats, sausage, and bacon can negatively impact your skin without you even realizing it. Ariel Ostad, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, told Health that processed meats can accelerate your skin's aging. "Many of these meats have sulfites and other preservatives, which can trigger inflammation in the skin, and accelerate the appearance of aging," she stated.


Many of these processed meats are high in salt, which can also make you look puffy and bloated. Although you don't have to eliminate processed meats completely from your diet, swapping them for leaner meats like chicken or turkey is a great option that will help keep your skin looking healthy. Adding more fruits and vegetables is also a great alternative to those processed meats in your diet and will also help your skin look clear and glowing.

Having a sweet tooth

Your sweet tooth can impact many facets of your health, from your waistline to your skin. Not only can eating an excess of sugar contribute to pimples and acne, but it can also affect the appearance of your skin. Andrew Nish, MD, of UnityPoint Health, explained how sugar can age your skin on the inside and outside. "If you put a banana out on the counter and unpeel it, what happens in 24-48 hours? It gets brown," he explained. "What's happening is the sugars in that banana are reacting with proteins, causing cross-linking and the brown color. The exact same reaction is happening in our bodies. We're browning from the inside out."


He explained that sugar also causes our skin to stiffen and lose elasticity which results in premature aging. "Aging is part of growing older, but it's accelerated by sugar," he said. Fortunately, it's never too late to limit your sugar intake and try to reverse the damage done to your skin. Using new products that contain retinoids can help build new collagen and choosing healthier options to satisfy that sweet tooth can make a big difference. Dark chocolate, for example, actually helps reduce dark spots and pigmentation and keeps skin glowing and healthy, according to Femina.

Making repetitive facial movements

We've already seen how repetitive facial movements, such as sipping on a straw, can age your skin, but those aren't the only movements that can impact the fine lines and wrinkles on your face. Whether it's pursing your lips, raising your eyebrows, squinting, or scrunching your nose, repetitive facial movements can cause the collagen in your skin to break down in those areas, according to Skinovative of Gilbert. They compare it to folding a piece of paper. The more times you fold it, the more pronounced the creases will be. 


While you may not be able to stop all those repetitive facial movements completely, you may be able to limit how often you do some of them. If you find yourself squinting constantly to see better, it may be time to visit the optometrist. A new prescription for glasses or maybe even a new pair of sunglasses may be just what you need to stop that constant squinting, reducing those fine lines that are beginning to form around your eyes. Quitting smoking can help minimize how often you purse your lips (not to mention the numerous health advantages to quitting,) and as we mentioned above, limiting how often you use a straw can be helpful as well.

Spot treating pimples

People of all ages are susceptible to the occasional pimple which can be frustrating and annoying. Even if you thought your days of dealing with acne are behind you, pimples have no age limit, but how you treat those pimples can age your skin and cause visible damage if you're not careful. It may be tempting to use a topical treatment for those stubborn pimples, but Health notes that spot-treating your pimples can dry out your skin, leaving it looking older and more damaged. Carolyn Jacob, MD, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, explains that you're better off using an acne-fighting cleanser or moisturizer all over your face instead of just spot-treating your pimples.


Najat Watch, P.A., a dermatology specialist at Henry Ford Health explained that acne can get more complicated as we get older. "The goal is to balance the irritation with soothing, anti-inflammatory agents that nourish aging skin." That means avoiding soap-based cleansers because they can lead to premature aging of the skin and talking to your dermatologist if your skin problems persist.

The odd pimple may be annoying, but having a good skincare routine for your entire face will help you maintain healthy skin without causing any further irritation.

Using your cell phone

As a society, we spend a lot of time looking at screens. In fact, adults spend, on average, just over seven hours per day in front of a screen, according to Exploding Topics. This time spent on phones and other devices could be aging your skin. The high-energy blue light that's emitted from those screens can accelerate your skin's aging by causing sleep deprivation. The light interferes with melatonin production and disrupts the body's circadian rhythm.


Dr. Sweta Rai, a spokeswoman for the British Association of Dermatologists, told The New York Post that although this light isn't directly aging your skin, it can also cause pigmentation that can give the appearance of older-looking skin. "If you look at a pristine face and put brown spots on it, it will look aged from sun damage," Dr. Rai said. If you were ever looking for an excuse to put your phone down, this may be just the motivation you need.